Today Digiday — which does have its own content studio — ran a piece about the way that publishers are creating custom branded material for companies. Native advertising, really.
Of the three profiled (New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Huffington Post and Complex) only the WSJ made a point about “being cautious about drawing too many parallels between the editorial newsroom and [the] custom content studio.
Staff at the WSJ content studio don’t get titles like “managing editor” or “reporter,” and they think it’s very important that the reader differentiate between the content they’re putting out and the content coming from the editorial staff. “Calling it a newsroom or calling it anything that blurs that line is a mistake,” said the head of global media sales.
It made me think of the latest season of GIRLS, where Lena Dunham gets a job in the advertorial department of GQ.
One of the first things she learns on the job is that the advertorial and editorial teams never mix, and that the former group isn’t really seen as “working for GQ,” claims which have been determined as true, and false, respectively.
By the way, GQ responding to the episode’s creative licensing of fact/fiction is commended — you should always clear the air about anything that is said about your brand on TV, because consumers will always assume that it’s accurate.
One thing that I do think is true, though, about content studios, is that while they do harness the creative energy and talent of writers, videographers, designers and the like, they really aren’t true editorial because they have to answer to the client, the brand. Approvals on content that is created for a brand’s purposes can be tough, and I’m not just talking about legal.
That’s what makes brand publishing so challenging, but it’s why we love it. Creating a story that is truly compelling while still supporting the brand’s messaging and goals is a challenge worth taking up, in our opinion.